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USA 1971
Directed by
John Cassavetes
114 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Minnie and Moskowitz

In its day Cassavetes’ freewheeling experimental style was a breath of fresh air and it is quite interesting to see how much independent film-makers such as Richard Linklater (Wes Anderson has regularly cast Cassavetes’lead actor here, Seymour Cassel in his films) have absorbed of his work and how much they have adhered to the anodyne conventions of mainstream Hollywood.

The monster success of Easy Rider (1969) made Hollywood sit up and Cassavetes, well established as a maverick director, was backed by Universal in hopes of bagging another cult hit. It didn’t work out commercially but the film was critically well-received and it remains one of the era’s iconic films.

Gena Rowlands plays Minnie, an attractive, well-bred, single working woman who despite knowing better can’t disabuse herself of Hollywood’s myth of Mr Right. Seymour Cassel plays Moskowitz an uncouth car hop who saves Minnie from a bad date with a desperate male (Val Avery in one of the film’s funniest scenes) and the film is the story of how this unlikely pair get together.

Minnie and Moskowitz is a kind of rough-hewn, avant la lettre When Harry Met Sally (1989) but instead of Harry’s wisecracking and the tentative manoeuverings over many years of that film we have Moskowitz’s intense physicality and bull-in-a-china-shop clumsiness as he barges straight at Minnie’s cool, cool world.

Whilst certainly from a mainstream point of view there is a mis-match between the relatively conventional rom-com template and Cassavetes’ iconoclastic directorial approach the director’s commentary on the power of Hollywood in constructing male and female perceptions (The Maltese Falcon for him, Casablanca for her) gives the film a solid core of meaning and there are some dryly funny moments that are now stylistically unremarkable but were innovative for their day (compare for instance the restaurant scene at the end of this film with the lunch table scene in Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo 66 (1998) featuring another Cassavete’s regular, Ben Gazzara

In another typical Cassavetes' strategy his mother plays Moskowitz's mother, Rowland's mother plays Minnie's mother, her father has a cameo as a minister, Cassavetes plays Minnie's married lover and their children have small parts.

Available from: Shock Entertainment




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